Spain is first Catholic countryto allow gay marriages

1st October 2004, Comments 0 comments

1 October 2004, MADRID- Spain is to become the first country in predominantly Catholic southern Europe to legalise gay marriages as the government approved Friday a new draft law despite anger from the Church.

1 October 2004

MADRID- Spain is to become the first country in predominantly Catholic southern Europe to legalise gay marriages as the government approved Friday a new draft law despite anger from the Church.

Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who took office in April, has made legalising gay marriages a key element of his social policy despite outrage from the Catholic Church.

If the law is passed by parliament, Spain would become only the third country in Europe, after The Netherlands and Belgium, to allow people of the same sex to marry.

But a senior representative of the influential church earlier this week attacked the plans.

"It would impose on society a virus, something false, which will have negative consequences for social life," insisted Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, spokesman for Spain's Episcopal Conference.

But according to opinion polls some two-thirds of Spaniards are in favour of gay marriages and once the cabinet approves the bill on Friday such liaisons could become legal from as early as next year.

The new law would guarantee married homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual couples concerning divorce, alimony or child support payments,
inheritance, citizenship and adoption, reports said.

The right for homosexual couples to adopt children would also reportedly be
enshrined in the legislation.

Some 14 articles of the civil code will be altered so that the words "man and woman" and "father and mother" are replaced by "partners " or "parents".

Some eight to 10 percent of the country's population is said to be either gay or lesbian, and homosexual organisations have been angered by the reaction of the Church, lent weight by Pope John Paul II who has also denounced the plans.

"This law is part of the Socialist programme which has been voted for by the Spanish. The Church has nothing to say about it.

"This interventionist tendency by the Church is the virus and must be eradicated," said Beatriz Gimeno, president of the country's Gay, Lesbian and Transsexuals Federation.

She welcomed the legislation as "historic, the result of a long fight which will make Spain a pioneer in civil rights in Europe."

Zapatero himself, aware that this is a hot potato issue, said earlier this week: "I deeply respect the opinions of the Catholic Church even if they are very critical of the government. I ask them to show the same respect."

The bulk of the cabinet is behind Zapatero on the wave of social reforms.

However, plain-speaking Defence Minister Jose Bono, who was alone in taking the seals of office with his hand on the Bible, sees warning signs.

"If this war against the Church is declared both the Socialist Party and the Church will lose it. Only the Popular Party will gain."

The country's main opposition Popular Party has said it plans to propose an alternative law allowing homosexuals to form a "civil union" that would give them the same rights as unmarried heterosexual couples, except the right to adopt.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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